Don’t Let Your Ugly Cat Steal Your Joy
“Please! I need you to help me!”
I pleaded through tears with my mom as she headed for bed. As a talented artist and painter, I needed her to rescue me.
“Let it go, Jenny. You did your best. Go to bed.”
Grrrrr. Not the answer I wanted.
I was a sophomore in high school and my art project was due the next day. My mom had obviously not taken a good look at my painted canvas or she may have taken me seriously. It was awful. She could've fixed this in just minutes!
Just days earlier I was inspired to paint my childhood kitty, an orange tabby named “Snuggles.” I envisioned this beautiful acrylic piece proudly hanging in my room as a fond memoir. And now it was after midnight and I was fretfully looking at this heap of paint piled up on the canvas. “Snuggles Meets Semi Truck” was not my vision.
I couldn’t just “let it go.” No, I refused to show up to class with this embarrassing goober art. As the clock turned to one AM, then two AM, I layered more and more paint, hoping to fix the problematic areas with each layer. At six AM, I realized I had pulled an all-nighter and now I just had a 3D blob of orange and white paint. No sleep. Just tears and frustration.
As vivid and hilarious as this memory is, I have no recollection of taking the canvas into class. What was my teacher’s reaction? Did my classmates giggle? I don’t even remember the grade I received. No, I don’t remember the outcome, all I remember is being stressed out of my mind in the basement and upset that my mom wouldn’t do it for me. Apparently, stress has the ability to leave the longest standing memory.
Looking back, I can laugh at all of this. Twenty years later, it is absurd to think I stayed up all night stressing about something that wasn’t a big deal.
But it begs the question,
Am I (are you) stressing over something right now that is
— in the scheme of things —
not that big of a deal?
If I could jump back in my teenage body as an over-forty-year-old, I would absolutely laugh my head off at that painting and realize that this wasn’t worth losing any sleep over. I would simply say to myself, “You’re not Van Gogh. Go to bed, Love.”
But that’s not how it works. Rather than judging myself for being a dramatic teenage weirdo, I have to just laugh and realize that there is something to learn here. Are there any “ugly cats” making me lose joy and sleep — now — but I lack the foresight to realize this probably doesn’t really matter in my big life picture?
Several years into my adult life, I determined that my joy, no matter what, was not up for grabs. It was not something that I would let slip through my fingers or trade in for a cheap dance with anxiety. Joy, after all, is the essence of beauty and fundamental to a prosperous soul.
I stayed up all night in fits of anxiety because I didn’t have the sense to understand that my best was good enough. I didn’t have the maturity to move beyond the moment.
TOTALLY. BLOWN. OUT. OF. PROPORTION.
Lord, is there anything that I need to “let go” of and in a sense, just “go to bed?” (REST). Am I addicted to worry? Am I addicted to “perfect.” Is a desire to be “perfect” stealing my joy? Please help me see beyond the moment. Help me have joy in all things. Amen
Psalm 34:5 The Passion Translation
Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come. Your faces will glisten with glory. You’ll never wear that shame-face again.